Vandals who criminally damage graves and war memorials in Wales and England could face up to 10 years in jail.
Memorials and graves including Hirst Wood burial ground in Bradford, Haydon war memorial, Cenotaph in Park Gardens in Stroud, Naval memorial in Southsea and the war memorial in a North Lanarkshire park are among several vandalised this year.
The new guidelines are geared at considering the full impact of the crimes on the wider community, as well as their financial cost.
A new range of punishments will include life sentences for arson – and between 8 to 10 years jail time for criminal damage.
The Sentencing Council published new guidelines introduced for both magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court hearing arson and criminal damage cases and will ensure that they take account of:
- the full impact of arson or criminal damage such as vandalism on national heritage assets including listed buildings, historic objects or unique parts of national heritage and history;
- the economic or social impact of damaging public amenities and services such as a fire at a school or community centre, or criminal damage at a train station, which can adversely affect local communities or cause economic hardship to neighbouring houses or businesses; and
- the effect on communities when an area’s emergency services or resources are diverted to deal with an incident of criminal activity.
The guidelines, which come into effect on 1st October 2019, will help to ensure that sentencing by judges and magistrates will be consistent across the whole range of these offences.
There are over 100,000 war memorials in the UK, which were built through local fund-raising, there is no central body responsible for their maintenance. Some are owned by local authorities, churches and schools, while the ownership of others is uncertain but they receive no special legal protection.
In the past, those who have attacked memorials have escaped with community sentences or minor fines.
Welcoming the new guidelines Mark Harrison, head of heritage crime strategy for Historic England, said:
‘Damage to our heritage comes in many forms.
‘Whether it be graffiti painted on the walls of a historic church, vandalism to the stonework of an ancient castle or causing a fire that devastates a Medieval barn or Victorian pier; these offences have a detrimental impact on both the historic property or site and the local community in which it is located.
‘The new guidelines will help the courts identify all the relevant factors to include in their sentencing decisions as they will now be able to consider ‘threats to cause criminal damage’, ‘the act of damage’ and ‘damage by fire’.’
Caring for War Memorials.
The War Memorials Trust works to protect and conserve war memorials in the UK. The charity provides free advice to anyone as well as running grant schemes to support repair and conservation projects. You can find a range of resources on their website
The Trust is a charity so if you support their work please consider making a donation.
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